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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Schools and Elections

Well election euphoria is still rampant here in Minneapolis. People were dancing in the streets, setting off fireworks, and more Tuesday night. I'm not going to discuss politics today but more post my thoughts of working in a school that hosted a polling site.

A lot more went into this than I expected. A few of us (including the principal) had a meeting to talk about logistics of the day. We had to make sure our students were safe, didn't interfere with the voting, and our school looks good.

The way our building is setup we don't have a secure way to section off part of the school, which turned out to be fine. A funny part of the logistics is that the school district won't allow the "general public" to use our restroom facilities. So someone ponied up the money to rent port-a-potties. Yes, we had 4 port-a-potties sitting outside our building.

Anyway I had the chance to talk to many of the students getting off the buses. Their reactions were wide ranging and interesting. Here are a few of them:

- "Did you vote Mr Cross?" Me: "Not yet" "Ok, be responsible."
- "What is going on??" (she obviously didn't get the phone call the night before)
- One student walked past the line of waiting voters and started chanting, "Obama, Obama, Obama."
- Another student later went through and pointed at people saying, "McCain, McCain, McCain."
- Fortunately, for the last two the people just laughed.
- Some voters waiting in line very early threatened to call the cops on a student holding an Obama sign if we didn't make him put it away - we did. The only cop that I saw around all day was our Liaison.
- Throughout the day students would walk by the voting room and say something like Obama or McCain. Interestingly, no kids said anything about our levy or referendum on the ballot!
- Every polling site had a Kids Voting Booth. It kept track of which school the students attended - not necessarily the polling site. Our school had 67 students vote - 65 voted for Obama,29 voted to pass the school levy.
- Voters lined the hall, out the door, and around the corner... the wait wasn't ever more than 30-40 minutes.
- Voters enjoyed the chance to talk and catch up with their neighbors and friends.

It was good to see the kids react to the election and to see democracy in action. We have a large percentage of students who are first or second generation immigrants. Some of these student's parents aren't able to vote but they got to see the power of democracy. A co-worker said she ran into a bunch of Somali's cheering in the streets - and they couldn't vote but were so excited to watch democracy in action.

A final note, the Family Liaison, was in charge of working with the election judges and making sure everything went smoothly. Talking to the election judge mid-way through the day, the judge commented to her that they had gotten a lot of comments about welcoming the school had been and especially the principal. My co-worker was shocked because our principal wasn't even there. Everyone thought the Liaison was the principal!! A funny story from election day.

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